Seventh Generation’s mission statement #ComeClean neatly encapsulates the company’s commitment to bio-based products. In fact their name, comes from the Seventh Law of the Native American tribe, the Iroquois, which considers its actions seven generations ahead, about 140 years into the future. For 28 years they have been selling cleaning and personal care products. Not only are their products sustainably sourced from plant-based solutions but their packaging is also biodegradable and made from post-consumer materials. Last year, Seventh Generation generated more than $200 million in revenues across 190 countries and interacted with two billion customers every day. And now in the latest in a series of take-overs of sustainable brands by large multinationals, they have now been acquired by Unilever, owner of over 400 brands including Dove, Hellmann’s, Surf and Magnum. The deal followed sixth months of negotiation, with industry reports putting the purchase price between $600-700 million. So what next for this Vermont based-eco brand now it is part of one of the largest consumer goods company?
John Reploge, the CEO of Seventh Generation ( @ ) and an ex-Unilever executive stated at the announcement of the take-over; “For 28 years, Seventh Generation has been creating products that are not only effective but also designed with environmental and human health in mind while demonstrating that business can have a greater purpose, serving not just profit but people and the planet as well.”
For Unilever, who have drawn some criticisms for their sustainable practices in the past, this deal has echoes of the 2001 purchase of another Vermont-based brand with a strong green ethos, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. This acquisition prompted fears that the brand, known for its environmental focus and social activism, would be changed irrevocably within a large corporate structure. However, Unilever adopted a reasonably light-touch to managing the brand, the positive focus has remained and the benefits of being part of a major group has nearly tripled Ben & Jerry’s revenue and increased hundreds of jobs.
Nitin Paranjpe, President of Unilever’s Home Care business said: “Seventh Generation has long been a disruptor in the US marketplace, leading the industry in sustainable innovation while attracting new generations of conscious consumers. This addition to Unilever’s product portfolio will help us meet rising demand for high-quality products with a purpose.”
Reploge has confirmed that the company are not in any talks with other consumer packaging corporations and their management team is not going to change under the new ownership. As it stands, Seventh Generation will still be based in Vermont.
Seventh Generation currently operates 95% of their business in Northern America, so it is hoped that Unilever will provide the experience and money to launch the care product company into new emerging markets.
Kees Kruythoff, President of Unilever North America, added: “Adding Seventh Generation to Unilever’s portfolio of purpose-driven brands like Ben & Jerry’s and Dove demonstrates our continued commitment to the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan.”
This purchase of Seventh Generation by Unilever, is further proof of the growing economic potential of bio-based products and their emergence from a niche audience in mainstream shopping baskets. For Seventh Generation it offers the opportunity to reach new markets and take advantages of the huge resources that Unilever provide.
Whilst for the multinational it enables them to reach a different customer base and to be able boost their standing in the sustainable and bio-based space. The team at Bio-Based World News will watch closely developments at Seventh Generation!
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